What's the difference between "believe" and "believe in" in the following sentences?

Kate: Hey, John, do you believe in black magic and astrology?
John: No, I don't believe in all those things.

Kate: Hey, John, do you believe in black magic and astrology?
John: No, I don't believe all those things.


We believe a statement, that it is true.

We believe a person (who has spoken), that what they say is true.

We believe in a person (we have faith in them or trust them).

We believe in [the existence of] something, that it is real.

Astrology makes predictions, and thus is in some ways it is like a statement. Both of these would be idiomatic:

I don't believe astrology.

I don't believe in astrology.

But "magic" makes no statements. This would be not be idiomatic:

I don't believe magic. unidiomatic

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  • So can I use both of them in the sentence? – subhajit dalal Oct 5 '17 at 16:58
  • What sentence are you speaking of? There are several in your question. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 5 '17 at 16:59
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    Per this NGram, to believe astrology is vanishingly rare compared to to believe in astrology. That's because astrology is a source of knowledge and/or entity whose "existence" may be doubted, rather than an actual statement (whose veracity may be open to question). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '17 at 17:07
  • @FumbleFingers:I don't think we can rely on ngram here inasmuch as "I don't believe astrology" is a colloquialism not likely to finds its way into print. I don't doubt that "believe in" occurs far more often. And I said "in some ways it is like a statement", not that it was a statement. I'm merely attempting to explain the usage. I do believe in astrology. You shouldn't go outdoors next week. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 5 '17 at 17:12
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    @FumbleFingers: "Obviously you can actually say I don't believe astrology with no preposition, but that changes the meaning somewhat. " Exactly the point I was making in my answer. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 5 '17 at 17:26

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